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When it comes to tea, there are issues around describing one concept easily. And that concept is tea. Ask ten people what their favourite tea is. If you move in the exalted circles I do, then you are going to get a chorus of Da Hong Paos and Vintage Narcissuses (Narcissi?) . But if you […]
Hello Tea Friends! Anyone who knows me is aware I adore Yunnan teas, that is why I jumped at the chance to review this one. I’m going to jump straight into the review so I c an get my ‘drink’ on. Opening the packet reveals dark brown leaves that are long and thin with quite a few golden tips among them. The leaves appear to be good quality ie no discolouration or holes, and they were 3/4 in length for the most part so pretty full leaf with a few broken parts here and there.They have a slight smoky wood Read More
Part of earning “geek status” in the tea world is learning a bit of the specialized jargon that goes along with it. As in any specialized field of industry or study, jargon can be problematic, especially when that jargon takes the form of using words that already exist in everyday English and applying new meaning to them. Perhaps the most frustrating example of this is the word “theory” which in everyday English means “a guess”, but in science means essentially the exact opposite—“a broad explanation of something that we’re really certain about”. The lexicon surrounding tea is no less confusing. In this series, I’m going to explore the jargon behind two different processes important for tea production that are both sometimes called “fermentation.” I’m also going to dive into the biology and chemistry behind steps of tea processing and suggest some new terms that could make the biology and chemistry even clearer.
In part one, I’m going to be tackling the problem of what to call the processing step that makes green tea leaves into black tea. In the tea industry, this is often called “fermentation” which is a direct translation of the Chinese fājiào. This is the process that makes green tea leaves darken in color to produce oolong or black tea.What’s going on:
Almost all plant parts contain a suite of chemicals called catechins, one group of a larger family of compounds called polyphenols. They all share a similar structure that includes several alcohol (-OH) group sticking off of them. Catechins are colorless and have a variety of functions in plants including acting as antioxidants to snatch up DNA damaging free-radicals. They are generally kept in a compartment called a vacuole inside the plant cell. Plant cells also contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase. Like all enzymes, polyphenol oxidase is a large (relative to the catechins), protein machine designed to speed along a specific chemical reaction. Polyphenol oxidase is kept in a separate compartment from catechins, called a plastid, and it can only do its particular job when a plant cell is damaged, like when tea leaves are bruised during the production of oolong or black tea.Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the most abundant catechin in tea
When the leaf is damaged, polyphenol oxidase mixes with the catechins and speeds along a reaction converting catechins into quinones by removing the hydrogen atoms (H) and some electrons from those alcohol groups (-OH) with the help of oxygen from the air (O₂). Quinones are then able to bind with other quinones or other polyphenols forming larger, more complex polyphenols that tend to have a reddish brown color.
However, if you apply heat early on in tea processing, the enzymes (being made of protein) “cook”, which makes them inactive. Thus, if the leaves are heated before they are bruised, this chain of events never happens even though the catechins and oxygen are present. The simple version: when a leaf is bruised, the contents of two compartments mix and a chemical reaction occurs that creates a reddish brown pigment. If you heat the leaf enough, this reaction won’t happen. Or I should say, the reaction won’t happen quickly since catechins can oxidize without polyphenol oxidase present; it just takes a lot longer¹.What to call it:
In English, “fermentation” always involves microbes in some way, so when English speaking tea geeks first learn about the lack of microbes in this step, they generally switch to using the term “oxidation” instead as a more correct, scientific alternative. Unfortunately, this term has some jargon issues as well. In everyday English, “oxidation” is a reaction that happens when things are exposed to oxygen. Rust formation, the Statue of Liberty turning green, and apples browning might all be called “oxidation”. In chemistry though, “oxidation” has a different meaning.
An oxidation reaction is any chemical reaction where something loses some electrons. That’s it! It doesn’t even have to involve oxygen! So for a scientist, calling this step of tea production “oxidation” isn’t terribly helpful since that word can describe so many different chemical reactions going on all the time. A food scientist would probably call this process “enzymatic browning,” a term that I’ve surprisingly never seen come up in any discussion about tea². If you read about browning of fruits and veggies though (which is exactly the same chemical reaction), it becomes clear that “enzymatic browning” is the most precise term for what’s going on here without going into a full on description of the exact enzymes and chemicals involved. It’s unclear to me why tea scientists and tea industry professionals have tried to reinvent the wheel with the terminology for this process, since “enzymatic browning” appears to be already widely used and understood in food science.
When deciding on what to call this process, it’s important to think of who your audience is. If you’re talking to tea professionals who are already familiar with tea processing, it probably makes sense to call it “oxidation” or maybe even “fermentation” (as long as it’s clear you’re not talking about real fermentation). However, for neophyte tea geeks, “fermentation” is often a very confusing term, and I would avoid using it entirely (with the exception of warning them that other people might use it). If your audience is scientifically minded, please at least avoid using “fermentation”, and why not use “enzymatic browning”? It’s clear, concise, and it lets you tap into a large established body of food-science literature.Notes
The post The science and nomenclature of tea processing. Part 1: Enzymatic browning. appeared first on Tea Geek Blogs.
It is the beginning of a new year and I’m sure if you are like me, you are seeing a ton of detox and healthy wellness teas in your social media feeds. I’ve never been a big fan of good for you herbals but I’ve always enjoyed herbals that are full of dried fruit. Recently I’ve noticed my taste buds are starting to change. I’m no longer craving the floral teas like I used to but am finding myself really craving herbs and spices like ginger, spearmint, peppermint, chamomile, and so on. So today I thought would be a Read More
Black tea production in Taiwan has always been a tremendous part of its tea culture. Although it shadows oolong tea, black tea has made some amazing strides as more farmers, in different growing regions, make it their mission to experiment and process it on an annual basis. Early origins can be traced back to the colonial times of Sun Moon Lake, but evidence of black tea production can be found all over the island during the late 19th century. At this present time, Taiwan’s farmers and processors are all beginning to heavily invest their development within black tea, creating new concepts and pathways that can all be traced back to tea production towards the end of the 19th century.
The history of black tea began when seeds were brought over from China. During the latter half of the 19th century, production mainly focused on oolong teas, but black teas were still produced at the request of locals. Afterwards, Japanese colonists established a black tea production hub, in the center of Taiwan, at Yu Chi township by Sun Moon Lake. They had deemed this region suitable for black tea production and imported Assam seeds to rival India. Black tea became a big export under Japanese occupation as it was heavily marketed; making its way to the US and UK. Sadly, production dwindled after WWII, and Taiwanese black tea dropped heavily out of the international market. It was not until the late 70s when the government had assisted farmers in promotion of black tea in Sun Moon Lake. From then on, the teas produced from that region are considered high quality as there were strict regulations and quality control policies to abide by. Through this resurgence, Taiwanese black tea climbed back into the market and soon other farmers and processors followed with their own concepts of black tea.
Joining Sun Moon Lake producers, the remainder of Taiwan has quickly picked up black tea production as exports increase annually. In the past, the majority of farmers have created black teas, in small quantities, at the request of local customers. Their previous experience allows them to be flexible as they experiment with various cultivars, regions and elevations when processing black tea. This includes utilizing high mountain oolong cultivars such as Jin Xuan or Chin Hsin to create black teas with leaves originating from Alishan, Shan Lin Xi and Li Shan. The smaller leaves give off fruity, floral and special sweet nodes to the tea. Lower elevation black teas can even be experienced with the Si Ji Chun, or Four Seasons Oolong leaves. Popular forms of black teas are also being created as farmers and processors in Taipei county pave the way for new creations such as Honey Black Tea. These teas give off a honey and malt note, utilizing the bug bitten recipe found in Oriental Beauty. Only harvested during the warmer seasons of summer and fall, Honey Black Tea gives off unique tastes as leafhoppers bite into the leaves, playing into the oxidation process to bring about its flavors.
Taiwan exhibits a unique tea culture as farmers and processors were never bound by traditional limitations within tea production. The closest comparison that comes to mind are of California wineries. Due to its unique microclimate and the lack of a longstanding wine tradition, they are open to importing grapes and recreating wines such as Burgundy, Riesling, and others from different regions of Europe. The same applies for Taiwan farms as they are not limited and are more likely to create and experiment with different types of tea. Even if farms are not known for a certain green or black tea, processors can certainly create it with the materials, knowledge, and experience from before. This also applies to black tea as farms from various growing regions in Taiwan now follow the lead of Sun Moon Lake to recreate black tea from their own perspectives and pave the way into Taiwan’s Black Tea renaissance.
We have an excellent example of this black tea renaissance named High Mountain Black Tea.
Jason Chang is the cofounder of Teaful.co, a new online tea shop specializing in a variety of single-source teas. You can find them here.
My Grandfather ADORED Lemon Drop Candy! When I first saw Lemon Drop Tea from The Tea Can Company I couldn’t wait to try it! It’s part of their Candy Shop Collection. The labels for their Candy Shop Collection are adorable and nostalgic. High elevation Ceylon Black Tea, Lemon Peel and Australian Lemon Myrtle? I’m THERE! The company says this tea has the mouthwatering taste of Lemon and the classic taste of Black Tea come together to create this delightful, sweet, low-calorie treat. Again…I’m THERE! Well it certainly smells like Lemon Drop Candy with a bit of black tea! The aroma Read More
Who didn’t love the last Sherlock season? So good! I loved each episode and can’t wait for the next season. . .if there is a next season. Sherlock is one of those shows that my stepsons even enjoy. We actually love this show so much that we (and I really should say I) decided to name our dog Benedict, after Benedict Cumberbatch-who plays Sherlock in the series. The show is clever and cunning, always keeps you wondering what is coming next. So it goes without saying that when I saw that there were several Sherlock inspired teas offered in the Read More
Just like a good Valentine’s date, An Evening with Eros tea blend comes bearing roses and chocolate. There’s enough of both ingredients that you can see chocolate chips and petals scattered throughout the dry leaf. The namesake of this blend is Eros, the Greek god of love, and since this is a decaf rooibos blend, it’s the perfect brew for a late night out or a cozy evening in. The vanilla rooibos is the star player in this blend, coupled with gentle swirls of chocolate and flowers. Raisins and elderberries bring additional sweetness and play well with the natural woody Read More
Whew! I don’t know about you, but I love hot tea. I mean, duh, but wait for it. For me, tea is the ultimate comfort drink. There’s nothing I love more than curling up with a blanket, a book and a hot cuppa. Finally, FINALLY, it’s cool enough to do that (in Seattle – Naomi, you’re on your own in Vegas).
In Seattle, we’ve had a scorcher of a summer and while it’s been wonderful, it’s pretty uncomfortable curling up on a leather sofa in your short shorts and sipping hot tea when it’s 90 and humid. I’m just going to let you sit for a moment with that picture in your mind.
But there’s always iced tea, you say? Well sure. And I drank a considerable amount of iced tea this summer. It’s wonderful and refreshing. There are so many options for turning tea into summer treats.
However, nothing beats a lazy morning, sipping on a piping hot Earl Grey while reading about ghost stories or endless love. There is nothing cozier than curling up in blanket, staring into the fire and breathing in the smell of a jasmine green.
A photo posted by Audrea Fink (@audrea11) on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:18pm PDT
AND. IT’S. FINALLY. TIME. TEA TIME! The best kind of tea time. The fall leaves, morning fog, crisp air, boots and scarves kind of tea time. The time where your cup warms your cold fingers and the steam warms your cool nose.
The best part of it all is that now, it’s going to be the perfect tea time (in Seattle at least) for the next few months. And I’ve already started gearing up the office to be prepared. A co-worker and I built our own little tea cozy corner.
A photo posted by Audrea Fink (@audrea11) on Sep 18, 2015 at 11:32am PDT
That entire cabinet the basket is sitting on is filled with tea, so you can be sure we’re prepared for the teapocalypse here. So bust out your mugs, scarves, boots and hipster hats because it’s finally time to enjoy a proper cup of tea (without sweating and sticking to your leather seat).
It was a fall evening in 2008 that I decided to start a tea blog. In retrospect I knew very little (still do in fact.) However I did have one thing, passion, passion to learn, passion to know, and passion to try. Honestly I had no clue then what the next 7 years would entail, and what I would learn, but knowledge about tea aside, the thing I have learned is what passion can do for life, and
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